In early 2000, I got a call from an old friend, Toby Knopf, who at the time was president of the Jewish Federation of Howard County, an organization to which I was an annual donor. She told me that her treasurer had just resigned, and she asked me if I would consider filling in for the remainder of the term. I was about to retire and decided that I was kind of light on the tikkun olam part of my résumé, so this would be a good segue into retirement. I agreed. While I never expected to hold this position for 14 years, it’s been a tremendously rewarding journey with the Federation.
Before I started volunteering for the Federation, I was making a modest donation of $36. Each year, when I received a call about the annual campaign and I was asked to make another donation, my response was, “What did I give last year?” and then saying, “OK, put me down for the same.”
Then I got involved with the Federation and I witnessed firsthandseveral things. First, the Federation was a responsible steward of donated funds. Second, the Federation was led by a hard-working group of volunteers and staff who were dedicated to the mission of the organization. Third, the Federation did not have enough financial resources to do the work in the community that it needed to do and that it aspired to do. My wife, Rose, and I decided to increase our donation to $100 per year. I knew this was still light, but I felt this was what we could afford. After all, we had synagogue dues and other charitable pressures on our resources.
As the years passed, we continued to increase our annual donations. Then Harry Adler founded the Knesset Club. This is a giving level of $1,200 or more to the annual campaign. At first I thought that, while this was a great idea, I gave so much of my time that I was covered. But then I considered that the Federation runs on both effort and money, and effort without the money only gets you so far. I thought about the Knesset Club level: $100 a month, and I could put it on my credit card!
But I felt that Federation had grown to be a very large part of my life and was, indeed, very relevant to me. We went ahead and made the monetary commitment. I have found that $100 a month added to my Visa bill is actually quite painless. Furthermore, every month when I reconcile my statement, I feel good about the donation that I know is going toward building Jewish life in Howard County and around the world. I have seen the value that the Federation adds to our community —from Yom Hashoah observation to religious school scholarships to counseling for those in need —and I know that I am doing my part for my fellow Jews. I hope that others in the community will take the first step on his or her own journey with the Federation.
Elliot Shefrin is the principal of Shefrin Consulting and serves as treasurer of the Jewish Federation of Howard County.